Chow Bistro, Collegeville, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on July 21, 2018

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Culinary Criticism, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Chow Bistro

454 Main Street

Collegeville, Pennsylvania

(484) 902-8495

Chow Bistro - ExteriorIn my initial review of Chow Bistro – August 2014 – I noted that Chef Guy & Cathie Clauson’s independently owned & operated restaurant provided a welcome respite from the chain-inundated Collegeville dining scene… Four years later, that original assertion remains valid. Comfortably ensconced in a stately old stone building adjacent to Ursinus College, Chow continues to offer an attractive alternative to the area’s surfeit of chain eateries.

In the interim, the restaurant’s interior has changed not at all. Well-spaced tables are complemented by a decorative potpourri of paintings, wall screens, and assorted objects d’art… And the cuisine remains similarly eclectic, ranging from Thai red curry to fish tacos to hand-cut pappardelle to Moroccan lamb meatballs to center-cut filet mignon.

Chow Bistro - Arugula - Watermelon SaladDuring my recent return visit, the Three Mushroom Soup, rich, creamy, and alive with earthy flavors and seasonings proved a fabulous starter. However, as I noted in my first review, the kitchen does seem to have a particular talent for turning out a host of first-class greenery, which always makes salads a good bet. Of particular note is the Arugula and Watermelon Salad teamed with crumbles of feta cheese (pictured). This may seem like a rather odd combo, but the watermelon & feta provide delightfully sweet & creamy counterpoints, respectively, to the peppery arugula… But it’s the subtlety of an enticing honey-lime dressing that succeeds in bringing the components together into a tasty (and tasteful) gestalt.

Chow Bistro - Braised Beef Short RibsEntrée-wise, the presentation of incredibly tender Braised Beef Short Ribs is utterly spectacular in its simplicity. Roasted carrots and cipollini onions add color & texture, an assertive Cabernet jus spikes up the flavor, and a savory mound of whipped potatoes contributes a luscious supporting performance. An absolute must for confirmed carnivores.

Chow Bistro - SwordfishMeanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Adobo Rubbed Grilled Swordfish with mango mojo and green rice is – and there’s no other way to say it – downright terrible. It is very easy to overcook swordfish… and if you do, the meat not only becomes dry and exceptionally chewy, but it also loses its flavor. And that is precisely what happened here. Even with the zippy adobo seasoning, all remnants of flavor had departed. To the chef’s credit, the swordfish was removed from the check.

A similar faux pas took place during one of my previous visits four years ago; and it also involved seafood. In that case, Prince Edward Island Mussels. The moment the crustaceans emerged from the kitchen you knew something was wrong – so did the entire dining room – yes, the smell was that bad. The broth, which was billed as garlic-herb butter and white wine, looked and tasted like dishwater. The mussels themselves were equally tasteless and degenerated into jelly-like shreds when extricated from their shells.

Once again, I can’t help but wonder, as I did in my initial review, how a kitchen that is capable of turning out such an array of excellent dishes could allow items like the above-mentioned swordfish and mussels to escape its precincts apparently unnoticed.

Chow Bistro - Chocolate Terine NapoleonFortunately, desserts are right back on track… The current catalog includes such sweet endings as White Chocolate Cheesecake featuring a pretzel crust, macadamia dust, and salted caramel; Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée garnished with blackberries; and Tres Leches Cake with toasted coconut and mango coulis. My nod, however, goes to another of those lethally addictive chocolate/peanut butter combos. In this case, the Chocolate Terrine Napoleon (pictured), which features decadent peanut butter mousse sandwiched between two slices of dense dark chocolate cake. Yum.

Chow Bistro - Interior 3One final item that needs to be mentioned, which was not in my first review, is the noise factor. If you’ve ever dined here, you know precisely what I mean. The ceiling is low, the surfaces hard; and, when the joint is jumpin’, the decibel level is, indeed, formidable. Just recently, for example, with the restaurant moderately occupied, and a party of six in attendance going full-tilt, it was nearly impossible to carry on a civilized conversation with my dining partner without shouting. I’m not quite sure what the answer to this problem might be… but consideration of acoustic wall panels – which I’ve seen employed in numerous eateries – might be a good place to begin.

Bon Appétit!


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